Again about validity of absolutions by SSPX priests

A priest reader sent me a link to an article on the site of The Remnant, which is I believe a bi-monthly newspaper staunchly on the traditional side of our Catholic spectrum.  The article in question concerns the validity of absolution of sins given by priests of the SSPX.  HERE

In a nutshell, the article argues that SSPX priests absolve validly.  I do not believe that to be true.   SSPX priests do not have faculties to receive sacramental confessions.  Period.  Faculties are necessary for validity.

I will not here replicate the piece from The Remnant.  Visit their site and read it on your own.   On the other hand, after consulting a canonist whom I trust can I offer this response.

The article in The Remnant is mostly another “Ecclesia supplet” argument which Jimmy Akin, among others, has handily proven faulty in these circumstances. HERE

The author of the Remnant piece decries that Rome has made no public official pronouncement on the matter. Therefore their confessions MUST be valid.

On the other hand, Rome has made an official pronouncement on the matter – it’s called the Code of Canon Law and it was issued in 1983.

Just to review, here are the key canons in the 1983 Code for the Latin Church (my emphasis):

Can. 966 §1 For the valid absolution of sins, it is required that, in addition to the power of order, the minister has the faculty to exercise that power in respect of the faithful to whom he gives absolution.

§2 A priest can be given this faculty either by the law itself, or by a concession issued by the competent authority in accordance with can. 969.

Can. 969 §1 Only the local Ordinary is competent to give to any priests whomsoever the faculty to hear the confessions of any whomsoever of the faithful. Priests who are members of religious institutes may not, however, use this faculty without the permission, at least presumed, of their Superior.

§2 The Superior of a religious institute or of a society of apostolic life, mentioned in can. 968 §2, is competent to give to any priests whomsoever the faculty to hear the confessions of his own subjects and of those others who live day and night in the house.

So, a man must be validly ordained and must have the Church’s permission to use the power to absolve sins validly.   That line about “the law itself” refers to a case of danger of death.  If someone is in danger of death, even a former priest validly absolves sins, even if he was a convicted pedophile or supporter of women’s ordination whose clerical status was removed.

The Remnant writer claims that canon 144 allows an SSPX priest to deem his own absolutions to be valid “due to legal common error”.  However, canon 144 is not for the individual priest to interpret. The legal error must be on the part of the one confessing.  For example, if I go to St. Ipsidipsy in Tall Tree Circle and confess my horrible black sins to a validly ordained priest in the confessional, but I am unaware that that priest’s faculties were suspended that very day, my sins would probably be forgiven.  I would be in error about the facts through no fault of my own.

So, the law is clear. No reasonable person, and I include SSPX priests in this category, can say that an SSPX priest has faculties to receive sacramental confessions and absolve. There is no reasonable error of law about this.

The author of the Remnant piece makes a false distinction about the accommodation the Catholic Church grants to the Orthodox.  He effectively argues “if THEIR absolutions are valid, then why aren’t OURS?!” That does not hold water.  If the SSPX are truly not schismatic, and if they are “merely” disobedient sons of Holy Church, then they should be held to a higher standard than the accommodation extended to the schismatic Orthodox.

If an SSPX priest is truly concerned about the validity of his absolutions, then he needs to find a bishop in communion with Rome and humbly beg that his situation be regularized.   I would go so far to say that if an SSPX priest even doubts that his absolutions may be invalid, then he ought to run, walk, limp or crawl to a friendly diocesan Catholic bishop and beg to be regularized.

I’ll bet that in most cases a diocesan bishop would find some work for the man which would include celebration of the sacraments in the older form.

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41 Responses to Again about validity of absolutions by SSPX priests

  1. acricketchirps says:

    I don’t get this: Does EVERY priest visiting another diocese have to get permission from the local Ordinary to validly absolve penitents? So I shouldn’t ask cassocked priests in airports of cities in liberal dioceses to hear my confessions before I board airplanes?

  2. Choirmaster says:

    What is the relationship between the diocesan bishop and the SSPX priest at large in his diocese? What of the suspension “a divina” of those priests? Can the diocesan bishop lift that suspension, even temporarily?

    It seems to me that the situation of the SSPX is very vague, and the Vatican is doing nothing to clarify. Various organs of the Holy See make some statements about the relative applicability of the term “schismatic”, but not much more. I’ve heard that there are doctrinal reasons the Society is not in “perfect communion”, but the CDF has never, to my knowledge, specified the trouble.

    So without any clarity coming from Rome, how should a diocesan bishop proceed? Can there be “perfect communion” between individual priests and individual bishops, while still an association with the SSPX?

    Rome needs to clarify this without so much political posturing! There are doctrinal difficulties? Then spell them out. The term “post conciliar magesterium” is not a doctrinal formula. “Accepting Vatican II” is vague and, as we’ve seen, means accepting self-proclaimed “experts” as on-demand Oracles of the Holy Ghost. Then again, if doctrine is the problems, why are we not using the word “heresy”?

    Plain and simple, if you ask me, is that if they are truly “disobedient” then they are truly schismatic. If there are “doctrinal irregularities”, in truth, then we need to discuss heresy, define the error, and propose concrete remedies to be accepted or rejected outright and not in secret negotiations. It all just looks like the SSPX doesn’t like the Vatican and the Vatican doesn’t like them, so we’re going to throw spitballs and stick out our tongues while souls burn!

    Disgusting!

    [None of this has to do with the issue at hand. SSPX priests don’t have faculties to hear confessions. Faculties are necessary for a priest to absolve validly. That’s it.]

  3. Fr Jackson says:

    The article’s explanation of legal common error helped ease my conscience, for if – as you say well above – canon 144 can establish this legal common error on the part of the faithful, then it only remains for me as a priest to have some proportionately weighty reason to make use of such legal error without fault on my part. And I am thoroughly convinced of the existence of such weighty reasons in the situation in the Church today, both globally and locally.

  4. APX says:

    I can just add this: the Bishop of Calgary has declared that the SSPX DO NOT have faculties in Calgary and CANNOT validly absolve sins unless in the danger of death, and that Catholics are NOT to attend their Masses or receive the sacraments from them unless in the danger of death.

    That said, there are still people in my Latin Mass community who don’t agree with the bishop and believe otherwise and go to the SSPX chapel when they can’t attend our Masses/Confessions done by the FSSP and don’t want to go to the OF or a diocesan priest for confession.

  5. Thanks for a very clear explanation (at least, it certainly seems to me to be clear!). I appreciate it.

  6. MichaelJ says:

    Father, I’ll take you up on your bet.

  7. O. Possum says:

    It’s always confused me that SSPX absolutions aren’t valid but Eastern Orthodox are. I know you say the SSPX should be held to a higher standard, but I thought that valid sacraments were due to valid Holy Orders. Could someone give more of an explanation on this?

  8. Denis says:

    So, take-away is: given a choice between the SSPX, the Byzantines, and a Novus Ordo parish offering confession half-heartedly, once or twice a year, one ought to choose… the Byzantines.

    Father Z, you speak with the optimism of a man who lives and works in a diocese governed by the rarest of animals: a solid Bishop who is friendly to tradition.

    [More and more bishops are solid and friendly to tradition.]

  9. APX says:

    O.Possum

    It was my understanding that because the Eathern Orthodox aren’t compelled by Canon Law to have faculties, whereas the SSPX are at the moment for faculties from the bishop, they are thus able to validly absolve sins for Eastern Orthodox, and for Catholics under limited circumstances.

    Based on this, I would presume that if the SSPX are officially declared schismatic and broken away from Rome, they would then be under the same circumstances as the Eastern Orthodox.

    That all being said, I am not a Canon Lawyer, nor do I have any formal education in anything Catholic, let alone Canon Law, I just read a lot, so I am likely wrong and not a reliable source.

  10. george says:

    Denis, I think the situation is improving around the country w.r.t. solid Bishops. I live in Michigan and in the Lansing Diocese, Bishop Boyea initiated an exclusively traditional Community about 3 years ago. Hopefully that will start happening more and more around the country.

    I think we have a bit of a Catch-22 where the bishops don’t see enough demand for the traditional rites so they don’t institute them. But SSPX attendees don’t see traditional parishes and so don’t present demand.

  11. BakerStreetRider says:

    Wow. I find the issue very confusing, so I cannot say what my opinion is on this issue, but I have never been less convinced than after reading that article from the Remnant. I am surprised that they posted it at all, frankly. Why the nasty, unprofessional tone? Why the scorn showed to legitimate laws concerning the sacraments? Why the antagonism and scorn showed to people who disagree with the SSPX in a very difficult question of interpretation? It may be that the SSPX is correct (I certainly cannot say), but it is clearly a lot more complicated than the Remnant writer is insisting, and the refusal to acknowledge the difficulties present in his position, and the attacks on those who disagree, is certainly unbecoming.

    It could be that the writer has the training that Mr. Akin lacks, but based on the presentation and tone, Mr. Akin (who I know is not a canon lawyer) sounds much more reasonable. It is to the SSPX’s credit that the Remnant writer is not one of their priests.

    It is interesting that the situation the Remnant article suggests, confession to a heretical priest would be valid, precisely because of supplied jurisdiction. The difference would be the faithful probably would not be aware of the priest’s situation.
    All in all, it still just seems strange that Catholic faithful who know full well that the priest has no faculties could still repeatedly claim supplied jurisdiction. Even if the Confessions are valid, it still seems like something is wrong there.

    @Denis, I may be overly optimistic, but I grew up in a very typical diocese with no Latin Mass around and a bad bishop, and it seems to me, at least in this country, most people (certainly not all, but at least the majority) have licit confession available to them in driving distance. The priest might not be the best, but that doesn’t really matter.

  12. Legisperitus says:

    If there really are any SSPX-friendly diocesan Bishops, they should upon request grant faculties to the SSPX priests in their respective dioceses for the good of souls.

  13. FranzJosf says:

    “The situation of the members of this Society [SSPX] is an internal matter of the Catholic Church. The Society is not another Church or Ecclesial Community in the meaning used in the Directory. Of course, the Mass and Sacraments administered by the priests of the Society are valid.”

    Cardinal Cassidy, May 3, 1994

  14. Hmmm….Why have your Confession heard if the Absolution isn’t valid? I’m stumped.

  15. Thank you for once again clarifying this situation Father. My only caveat though is that there generally is an attitude of ‘anything after Vatican II is sinful, evil and is not the TruChurch’ so the argument based on 1983 would be null in the mind of a RadTrad or SSPXer.

  16. dans0622 says:

    I agree with you, Father. I think that Remnant commentary goes a bit too far in concluding (it seems to me that this is the conclusion, anyway) that c. 144 applies all the time to any SSPX priest, based on common error of law. Well, sure, if you don’t tell the average Catholic all the facts about a certain, validly ordained priest, they’d theoretically conclude that he has the faculty. But, if a reasonable, prudent Catholic has all the relevant facts about Fr. So-and-so, sspx, can we so easily conclude that such a Catholic would come to an erroneous conclusion about that priest’s faculty to absolve? Anyway, we can’t expect the Holy See to come out with a “c. 144 applies/doesn’t apply to all SSPX priests.” The application of c. 144 depends on particular circumstances and doesn’t allow for general, authoritative declarations.

  17. Konstantin says:

    No they don’t and that’s one of the reasons my family and I left them. Thank God for the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer by the way, on whose blog I became aware of this. Supplied jurisdiction only works to the point where someone is totally ignorant of this fact.
    Unfortunately I know enough people that know that a priest needs jurisdiction and confess to SSPX priests anyway since they are so entrenched in that whole “State of Necessity” thing. Quite dangerous in my opinion.

  18. Just remembered something from our own Holy Father Emeritus, Benedict XVI, back when he dispelled the excommunications of the 4 acting “bishops”, including Fellay from here:
    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/letters/2009/documents/hf_ben-xvi_let_20090310_remissione-scomunica_en.html

    “The fact that the Society of Saint Pius X does not possess a canonical status in the Church is not, in the end, based on disciplinary but on doctrinal reasons. As long as the Society does not have a canonical status in the Church, its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministries in the Church”

    Straight from the horse’s mouth.

  19. everett says:

    As Fr. Z clearly points out, validity for absolution has 2 requirements – valid orders and faculties. SSPX priests have only one of these. Offering a valid mass is different. It requires valid orders, plus the right form and species. SSPX masses are valid (but illicit) so long as they use the proper form and species and have valid orders. SSPX absolutions are not, unless they have been given faculties.

  20. Choirmaster says:

    @ Julian Barkin: That’s where my problem is. Why will they (the CDF, for example) not release a syllabus of the SSPX errors; those “doctrinal reasons” that put them in a problematic, suspended “a divinis”, state. What doctrine(s) do(es) the SSPX reject?

    For example, if they believe that VII changed the doctrine on “religious freedom”, then why cannot they propose to hold to an earlier formulation of that doctrine, and have the Holy See tell them “yes” or “no” whether that formula has changed, or whether or not holding to that formula is now considered heresy. How many years has this been? I know the Vatican works slowly, but souls are in the balance and it’s time to publish the facts in a straightforward manner.

  21. Fr. Z, I have a related question of a somewhat speculative nature.

    Would it, in theory, be within the authority of an ordinary bishop to grant faculties to SSPX priests within his diocese, on a kind of case-by-case basis, with those priests remaining within the Society? Or would such a bishop be overstepping himself?
    Basically, I am wondering how much latitude a bishop has on his own authority to develop closer relations with the SSPX, all other things remaining the same. [Bishops have pretty broad authority in these matters. But it is hard to imagine a bishop doing that without also working to bring the fellow over into a regular situation.]

  22. Potato2 says:

    The Bishop in our Diocese would probably not find work for the priest in the “older form” Several priests have asked to do this and been told “no, they cannot”
    The EF is suppressed in some places, my diocese being one of them. The SSPX however, thrive here. Too bad they are not in full communion so those of us who wish to have an EF Mass could have one.

  23. ALL: I have deleted some comments and switched on the moderation queue.

  24. DumSpiroSpero says:

    I pray this situation is fixed ASAP–you have faithful Catholics who are on the brink of leaving The Church because they have to endure Bishops like Mahony and all the liturgical abuses, heresies, ecumenism, false doctrines, etc… that are promulgated in their respective dioceses…and in some dioceses, such as in my home diocese of Jackson, MS–the Bishop will not allow a TLM to be offered–he shut down all request made to start one. What is one to do? The Novus Ordo you are forced to attend has children around the altars “Co-Consecrating” with the Priest–30 minutes only per week for confession in a parish of 800-1000 people–women on the parish council who actually run the parish and tell the priest what to do–acceptance of homosexuality–acceptance of pre-marital cohabitation and sex–acceptance of people whose lives are public scandals, etc etc–the list goes on and on—so you Catholics who live in certain areas and are forced to endure this train wreck known as the “Spirit of Vatican II” and right down the road is an SSPX Chapel where they can be fed with true, authentic, Catholic teachings…a reverent, holy, authentic Catholic Traditional Mass–priest who are on fire with the faith and will not give heretical counsel and who actually offer confession every day of the week, but you can’t go to those people because Rome has condemned it and says their confessions are not valid…I am obedient to Rome and I am blessed that in a neighboring diocese, I am able to go to a wonderful diocesan TLM offered by a Holy Priest–but Rome, in my opinion, is putting a lot of Catholics between a rock and a hard place…they tell these marginalized Catholics that they must go every Sunday to meet their Sunday obligation, but their priests in a lot of cases preach heresy from the ambo and endorse heterodox teachings and ideas…not to mention the countless scandals in recent history and those currently ongoing…even scandals involving princes of the Church…in their minds, how can that be valid over what the SSPX has to offer??? I can see where they are confused and would still go to a SSPX Chapel even with Rome saying their confessions are not valid–Is that an infallible decree from Rome? I must be honest, if I didn’t have this diocesan TLM to go to in a neighboring diocese…then I would go to a SSPX Chapel if that was all I could find. I already support them financially each month, because I truly believe that if it weren’t for the SSPX, the TLM would be a footnote in history–I think history will judge them kinder than their contemporaries and I do foresee full union with Rome in the future. I pray for that day to come soon.

    [You are all over the place in this. I understand your frustration, however. The fact is that SSPX don’t have the faculty from proper authority to hear confessions, and the faculty is necessary for validity. That pertains to confessions, not to validity of Mass.]

  25. Fr Jackson says:

    In response to the question above “I am wondering how much latitude a bishop has on his own authority to develop closer relations with the SSPX” – let me say that I explored this in detail with a friendly diocesan bishop and to make a very long story short, there is very little they can do. The solution must come at a higher level. Cardinal Castrillon wrote to us to say essentially that we had to wait for a “corporate solution”.

  26. Liam says:

    Unfortunately, the false notion of “ecclesia supplet” as promoted in the literature of the SSPX and other traditionalist groups since the late 1970s has been too widely accepted as an authentic application of canon law by traditionalists. It is practically impossible to discuss this with supporters of the SSPX who are convinced by that the false application is valid.

    As for the Orthodox, as members of eastern churches sui juris, they are not ever subject to the laws of the Latin Church, this whether the Orthodox remain schismatic or not. Their case cannot be used when discussing canonical issues of validity and liceity with regard to the sacraments or jurisdiction in the Latin Church.

  27. To answer Julian Barkin’s comment, the 1917 Code of Canon Law apparently has similar canons that require faculties for validity. Of course, the web site where I found those canons in English was still arguing that “independent” priests still absolve validly. Unfortunately, one cannot argue succesfully with another who will not accept any of the premises offered. Basically, the ultratraditionalists redefine reality to suit their needs; arguing with them is hopeless. Perhaps the only starting point might be, “what would constitute a valid papal election?” One will quickly see that the “crisis” will last indefinitely. As for me and my house, we will confess to validly ordained priests with faculties.

  28. Panterina says:

    Weird. In reading Chris Jackson’s piece (is he a Canon lawyer?), one is led to believe that faculties don’t matter. If a Bishop gives faculties, then fine. If he doesn’t, then Fr. SSPX just needs to show up in the confessional anyway, and the Sacrament will be valid because this “triggers supplied jurisdiction due to common error of law.” To me, ecclesia supplet seems an expedient subterfuge to ignore the authority of the local ordinary.

  29. RJHighland says:

    I love these articles because so many of the faithful are so well versed in their interpretations on this topic. Something that just crossed my mind though so much of the conversation is based in the legal but what about the scriptural. When these conversations erupt and the discussion of valid orders or fauclties everyone seams to rest in the security that any hetrodox priest no matter how doctrinally wrong he may be is valid. Yet there are many doctrinally sound SSPX priests who offer confession with a true concern for the salvation of the faithful’s soul that apparently do not have fauclty or valid orders. This makes no sense to me. But my point is so often in the epistles the apostles write about those wolves in sheeps clothing and those that teach something other than what was first taught to you. Basically scripture says to cast them out and give them no heed. Yet the law of the Church says that these false teachers (hetrodox priests) have valid orders and fauclty, those that teach what the Church has always taught are schismatics and need to be cast out. Is that like really messed up or what? How would you apply those scriptures to what is happening in the Church today? False teachers are false teachers and the truth is the truth or is it all relative if it is realative then none of this really matters. Lex orandi, lex credendi and Say the Black and do the Red. I attended my local Novus Ordo Parish out of necessity two Sundays ago and sadly it felt very ackward, the prayers and form are so different to me know. As one that came to the Church from a Baptist/Methodist background the mass felt more like a Methodist service than Catholic Mass. The funny thing is when I was in RCIA many moons ago, I would compare the Methodist Prayer Book to the Novus Ordo Missal and I could see the shadows of the Catholic faith in the much altered prayers of the Methodist Prayer Book. Sadily that is what I do with the 1962 Missal and the Novus Ordo Missalette, I only see the shadows of the faith in the missalettes not the fullness of the faith. The same goes for the mass, in the Novus Ordo you see the shadows of the faith but it does not seem complete. In my soul I know that is my Lord and Savior but it almost feels like He has been kidnapped or held hostage. After mass my daughter and I spent some quality time with our Lord who now resides in a small side chapel that no one else seamed to know was there. It was nice to see old friends, it was even nice to see Father, in an odd and unintended way he helped me on my journey of faith more than he probably knows.

  30. Skeinster says:

    I’ve always found it a good rule of thumb to give any group that styles itself as “the remnant” of anything a wide berth.
    “Ecclesia supplet”- is that similar to the “voice of the poor”? As in Fr.s last post on LCWR…

  31. dominic1955 says:

    I find it silly that people still trot out this “ecclesia suplet” argument for the supposed validity of confessions to an SSPX priest. The Church is in a “state of emergency”, maybe in the sense that there are all sorts of silly things still going on but that doesn’t mean you can do whatever you like according to what you think is right in defiance of the legitimate authority-like them or not. It really is the same thing as “the voice of the poor” except its trotted out swathed in lace and smelling of incense. Boiled down, its still just “I do what I want because I know better!”

    If we could travel back in time to when the Mariavites (pre-their obviously weird stuff) started their tiff with Pope Pius X, I don’t think SSPX supporters would buy that same argument from them. In fact, I would bet they’d react with horror that someone would dare to do such a thing, since it was during their fantasyland halcyon days. The 1917 CIC and the 1983 CIC are both clear-the faculties to hear confessions are granted by the legitimate Church authority and it is not up to a group of troublesome clerics to decide that the Church is insufficiently “Catholic” for them to take matters into their own hands.

    I also think its rich when lay people get in a huff about not having “good confessors” and will make their confession to a priest who does not have faculties thus putting the validity of their confession in grave doubt (and a doubtfully valid sacrament can be assumed to be invalid…) because of what? To hear some muttered Latin and be given 10 Hail Mary’s pennance instead of 3? Please. I guess its your soul but to me its utterly insane to play fast and loose with it like this, even if on the surface is seems like anything but fast and loose.

    I confessed to a Jesuit in khakis and a polo shirt today-and I am a regular TLM and Byzantine DL attendee. I have never heard anything unorthodox or otherwise unseemly come out of the mouths of one of the Jesuits who hear confessions there, even if they are a bit sloppy in their liturgical style and not big on wearing clerics all the time (though they do). Actually, they are pretty good and give good advice. I put my trust in the fact that they have all faculties necessary from the Archdiocese and their Order much more than any trappings that have little or nothing to do with validity.

  32. Thank you for your input, Fr. Z, and you as well Fr. Jackson.
    I have to say, this is one issue that really weighs on my mind. Not because it affects me personally, but because the stakes are so high, and the consequences so grave.

  33. ALL: Remember that it is not up to Father, the priest, to be “convinced of the existence of weighty reasons in the situation in the Church today”. That is the role of Peter.

    Peter has determined that such weighty reasons for skirting the law are not currently present.

    Peter is not judged by anyone (can. 1404).

    There is no recourse against Peter’s decrees (can. 333).

    Those associated with the SSPX proffer arguments to justify their continued disobedience. To my ear, they sound more and more like … “protest”.

    I sincerely hope for a “corporate” solution, but I suspect we are not going to see one soon. Given that probability, I hope priests of the SSPX take matters into their own hands and seek benevolent diocesan bishops. As I was musing about this last night, I had the fleeting thought of an Oratory which would be able to welcome such men.

  34. DumSpiroSpero says:

    Father Z–I do admit, the situation is frustrating and I did a poor job trying make several points at one time–I guess to summarize: some Catholics seek out the SSPX Chapels, which do have valid Masses…and I could be wrong, but I think I remember Church officials saying that if one does that out of an attachment to the Traditional Liturgy and not out of blatant disobedience, while discouraged, it is allowable. With that said, it is natural for one to go to confession prior to Mass–I can see where it could be confusing for some with The Church saying that you can go to their Mass out of attachment for Traditional Liturgy, but forbids them from going to their confessions at that same Church offered by that same priest who is offering the Holy Sacrifice of The Mass. I understand the whole reasoning you laid out in your blog post regarding the validity of their confessions–many do not, so they are not aware they are doing anything wrong. Also, I confessed to a priest one time that told me that masturbation was not a mortal sin–I knew that was not correct–how dangerous is that advice to a new Catholic who may not know what the Church teaches?–it is guaranteed that a SSPX priest would never tell you that…The SSPX is constantly growing because of their sound orthodoxy. After 40+ years of bad theology being offered in a great number of Churches, people want authentic Catholicism! If every parish priest out there was like you, or my parish priest, then there wouldn’t be a need for the SSPX, but unfortunately you, and my priest, are a rare commodity… at least in these parts (Mississippi). Good Bishops are the key to this equation as well–Cardinal Burke is a fine example. I do believe it is changing for the better–the younger priests I have encountered seem to favor tradition more than the older priest–soon they will be the Bishops…and that will be great!! One final thought: I do think the SSPX makes a convincing argument for supplied jurisdiction…but since I am obedient to Rome, I would not go to them for confession…unless it was an emergency situation. I pray for them to be brought back into the fold ASAP. God Bless you Father–I always enjoy your insightful blog posts.

  35. Nan says:

    @O.Possum,

    Eastern Orthodox have valid holy orders; that depends on apostolic succession of Bishops, thus, their absolutions are valid. The SSPX situation is totally different.

  36. Mary Jane says:

    “However, canon 144 is not for the individual priest to interpret. The legal error must be on the part of the one confessing.”

    Fr Z is right on about this – and, Fr Z, your whole post was excellent. This is the first time I have seen this topic laid out so clearly and explained so well.

    It is really a shame that, as Liam above said, that the misconception about Canon 144 has been so widely spread and accepted that it is nearly impossible to correct the misconception. This is serious business – don’t mess around with the absolution of your sins. Even Fr Bob down the street, as Fr Z once put it, has faculties to validly absolve.

  37. Fr Jackson says:

    Dear Father,
    It would be a great thing to pursue your idea of the “Oratory.” I say that because I think such an exercise would help you come to a better understanding of the situation of the SSPX priests. [I have a little experience of this, though I have never been in the SSPX.] In trying to pursue such an idea – at least as a mental exercise – I suspect you would start to realize that on the one hand those SSPX priests who were willing to say the New Mass in principle have already joined the FSSP, while those in the other group will want to hang on to position statements such as the “Ottaviani Intervention” and analyses of Vatican II in the style of Mgr Gherardini, while at the same time wishing to keep the liberty to have schools and parishes run independently of diocesan bishops. The proposed 2012 personal prelature was the only structure that could do the latter, and that can only come from Rome itself. The hang-up came on the former point: Gherardini-style distinctions and criticism was not accepted at the level of an institution. Conclusion: keep trying what was attempted in 2012, but wait for a few more of the old entrenched liberals to move on from certain positions in the Vatican – those who seemed to have managed to block the thing at the 11th hour.

    Meanwhile, the comments of Pope Benedict about the near-catastrophic state of the Church in many countries (he mentioned France and Germany specifically to Bishop Fellay) and about the disregard by many diocesan bishops of his wishes constitutes – in my humble opinion – both a plea for help from a regularized SSPX as well as a recognition of a state of necessity beyond what he can directly remedy.

    [Maybe you should find a half dozen guys and think Oratory. I’ll bet we could find you a bishop.]

  38. Lepidus says:

    Excellent explanation of the law. The way I understand it is that the Church as the power from the Lord to determine the validity of the Sacraments and in the case of Confession, chose to tie the validity to having permission from the Church to do so. My question is why the Church didn’t apply a similar rule to the Eucharist? The way I understand it is that any validly ordained priest can effect transubstantiation. It my not be licit and he might be endangering his own soul, but it still happens, right?

  39. Paul M. says:

    Lepidus: Let me take a crack at your concern (subject to the correction of others who know better).

    “The way I understand it is that the Church as the power from the Lord to determine the validity of the Sacraments and in the case of Confession, chose to tie the validity to having permission from the Church to do so.”

    I’m not sure that is the best way to understand the situation. My understanding is that it is the nature of the Sacrament of Penance that requires jurisdiction/faculties for valid exercise.

    The Council of Trent considered that the Sacrament of Penance had the same nature as a judicial act or a judgment. (See 14th session, Decree on the Sacrament of Penance, chapters 6-7.) This holding was so strong that the Council anathematized those who said “that the sacramental absolution of the priest is not a judicial act, but a bare ministry of pronouncing and declaring sins to be forgiven to him who confesses.” (14th session, Canons on the Most Holy Sacrament of Penance, canon 9.) So, the council reasons, because pronouncing a valid sentence requires jurisdiction, pronouncing valid absolution also requires jurisdiction. Thus, a priest that lacks jurisdiction over the penitent cannot validly absolve. (The modern code uses the term “faculty” instead of what the Tridentine fathers called “jurisdiction” and what you call “permission of the Church”).

    Thus it is not simply the Church’s whim that makes jurisdiction a requirement for the sacrament. Instead, it is the nature of the sacrament itself that requires jurisdiction.

    “My question is why the Church didn’t apply a similar rule to the Eucharist?”

    The Eucharist does not have the same nature as a judicial act, so the reasoning regarding jurisdiction does not apply to it.

  40. Fr Jackson says:

    Father, the Oratory idea constitutes an abandonment of both faithful and institutions such as schools. It has always been easy to “find a bishop” if a traditional priest was willing to abandon all traditional apostolate. And when the bishop changes? Just look at Scranton, PA… [I couldn’t make any sense of that.]